Chapter Ten of the Acts of the Apostles has something very different happening. A centurion is being called by God. Before then, He called mostly Jews. He was a man named Cornelius, a Roman centurion. A couple of times the Bible refers to him as being “God fearing”. This is a lay man’s title for those who are not Jewish, but honor the Jewish religion. They pray to god and even are known to give substantial contributions for the Temple or the Jewish community. Peter is called to go and evangelize him and his household. Peter is instructed to eat profaned meat (v12-14). Peter first refuses because of the type of meat that is set out in his vision. But God has him come to Cornelius’ house and eat.
What God tells him is significant. “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane” (v15). The death of Jesus did not just clean humanity from sin, but cleansed the whole world from the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. The idea of the Jewish tradition is that dirt and dirty things makes other things dirty. If you have dirty shoes and you walk in the house, what happens? The house becomes dirty. What does not happen is that the shoes do not get clean. The shoes can only make everything they touch dirty. In fact, it is almost a guarantee. We have things today that can make shoes cleaner. We can wipe them on a mat or one of those shoe scrapers that help keep the floor clean in our house. Back then, there was no shoe scraper for the soul. They didn’t fully understand the sacrament of confession yet. So Peter is trying to avoid the dirty soul and wants to reserve himself for Jesus. That is why he responds with, “Certainly not sir, for never have I eaten anything profane and unclean” (v14).
Back in the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve fell, there was a great chasm that was established between all of physical creation and God. All of creation was made for humanity. And humanity was to take care of all of physical creation. They could do this because Adam and Eve had full knowledge of everything. Everything was in harmony. But when Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation took on the dirt of the human soul. The lion now eats the lamb. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes happen and nature is at war with itself as well as humanity. If humans ate pork or other forbidden foods, they would get sick and possibly die. Therefore, some foods were deemed as dirty or profane.
When Jesus came and died on the cross for us, the spiritual dirtiness of food was no longer held that way. God has made it clean in the same way He makes us all clean, through His blood.
As a side note; notice the hour that Cornelius said the vision came to him, three o’clock (v30). Three o’clock is known in Catholic Tradition to be the Hour of Mercy. It is the hour Jesus died on the cross for us (Matthew 27:46-50). It is a well-known special hour for prayer among Catholics. That is why the Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed so often at that hour.
Peter preaches the Kerygma, the amazing story of Jesus and God’s love for us. Immediately, Cornelius believed. History and tradition teaches that his entire household was baptized as well as all who were there. Notice it refers to the baptized in the plural (v47 & 48). This included babies. So, infant Baptism did exist from the beginning of Christianity. I have not yet come across an explicit infant Baptism in the Bible, but the Church recognizes and has always recognized this reality.